Look, I understand that there is bitterness between those Cubans who "chose" to stay, either because they'd rather suffer in their home country than live free in another, or because they were too fearful of the dangers of leaving, both to themselves and especially any family that remained, or because they were privileged by the Castro regime, or they saw no opportunity of leaving, or any other reason.
All you have to do is read a little history of situations like Russia under Staliln, World War 2 Germany under Hitler, post-World War 2 Eastern Europe under Stalin and his successors, China under Communist rule, and things are essentially the same, though flavored by unique cultures and histories. Totalitarianism is always the same. Thuggery, brutality, the murderous, single-minded will to power, propaganda, the willingness to imprison, torture and kill your own people in order to achieve your desired ends, and the employment of a police state to reach them.
Pirata, I'm sorry if my point of view on Castro offends you. I mean that in all sincerity. I do not wish to do so. You are an educated man, and I have great respect for you. I do not know how widely you have read the history of the twentieth century, indeed of the sweep of Western Civilization. I do not know if you have read books about Cuba and it's history, which of course is full of atrocities and criminal, heavy-handed rule by the original colonizers and many after them, including the Americans. For all I know, you have detailed and very specific knowledge of Cuba, more so than me.
But I have read too much of first-hand accounts and historical accounts of the cruel suffering totalitarian regimes have inflicted on their peoples, many of them in the name of social justice. Such people are fond of erecting gigantic posters and impressive statues, making their visage all-pervasive and godlike so as to convey the impression that they are to be revered (does Saddam Hussein ring a bell in this regard? Are you old enough to remember Mao Tse Tung posters?). Like the Berlin Wall, such people build walls to keep their own people from fleeing their terror more so than to keep enemies out. Castro needed no wall, only patrol boats that would deal mercilessly with anyone attempting to leave the island. They would brutalize any remaning relatives.
Speaking of the Berlin Wall, for it speaks to the oppression of a people by it's thug rulers, I had the opportunity as a young man in 1971 to spend a couple of days in the city as part of a traveling group. It was then that all I had read about the brutality of Communist rule became very real to me. We arranged a tour of the Berlin Wall in which we came to the wall area, boarded a bus, and were escorted through into the East German side of the wall, at which point our bus was boarded by armed East German border soldiers. The wall at this time was very much a hot spot and potential flash point in the Cold War. During the whole process you saw the elaborate and multi-layered barbed wire no-man's land that existed on the Eastern side of the wall (there was nothing comparable on the Western side, which spoke volumes about the purpose of the wall, which was to keep Germans from fleeing the terror of the regime.) The no-man's land was dominated by an endless string of militarized observation towers, manned by machine gun teams (which we could see) with searchlights, towers that stretched at regular intervals along the barrier as far as the eye could see in both directions. And there were tanks. Numbers of Soviet tanks, manned, cupolas open, sitting in watch behind the wall. In those days people were routinely shot attempting to flee through no-man's land. In fact, there had been such an incident a few days before in that very spot, IIRC. People in the West throw the word "police state"
around much too easily, using it as a political charge. In a real police state, when you publicly, and sometimes even privately denounce the regime you are subject to arrest, torture, and execution. You live in abject fear of doing something, anything, whether intended or not, that would attract the displeasure of the regime. You get used to the idea of people disappearing into the hands of the secret police. You fear not only for yourself, but for your family, which might be made and example of in order for the regime to enslave the people through that fear.
Boy, I've kind of gone on and on, as is my habit sometimes. But I run into a frustration even with my own grown kids who do not trouble themselves to read history, and so they only have the vague idea that bad things happen sometimes in history, or something that becomes the setting for a good movie. But they are not impressed by it, they are not riveted by it. It is something to be discussed along with the latest IPad. When a subject like this comes up I am compelled to hold a portrait up so far as I can for people to see. The refugees in Florida and their descendants know all about what I am describing. Whatever someone's political leanings, even if they are sympathetic to Castro's revolution (which sought to overthrow a truly odious state affairs at the time), the moment Fidel turned to totalitarian measures to advance and protect his regime he turned into a beast who tried to put on a pretty face to the world.
No doubt Guillen's comment was innocent enough. I am not the one out there trying to lynch the guy. It's majority of the Cuban-American community in Flordia that is outraged. They are more sensitive to the subject of Castro than I am. But no one should be surprised that once he made that innocent comment, even if being taken out of context, he has suffered public condemnation in Florida. It should be noted that Guillen has publicly and sincerely apologized. You know what, I even understand why some Americans hold leftist Latin American dictators in high regard. But I think that in order to do so they choose to ignore the essentially brutal nature of their regimes, whether through true ignorance, willing ignorance, or a belief that brutal things must sometimes be done in the name of social justice I do not know. (I should add that rightist thug regimes do the same things.) Sean Penn is enamored with Castro and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. I can live with that, though I think it short-sighted and wrong. I can live with people not understanding why there would be such an uproar over a seemingly innocent comment. But just like Guillen is free to say what he thinks, I am free to rehearse why I understand the outrage.
Me, I think Guillen harbors certain private viewpoints that are shared by many Latin-Americans. I think he made an innocent comment that happened to reveal some of those private thoughts. It was never intended as a public pronouncement. It's not as if the guy wrote a book saying that Fidel was his hero. In my thinking, here in Seattle and far removed from Miami, I cannot imagine doing anything more to Guillen than sitting him down, going over with him why his comments caused such a furor, admonishing him to be careful with his comments, and then asking him to trot out to a press conference to make a sincere apology with me standing right behind him. That's what I would do. I would not suspend him. But I don't live in Miami either, and I don't have a multi-million dollar business that depends on the goodwill of the people of Miami.
Let's remember, the Miami Marlins are not seeking to put Guillen in jail. They just suspended him for five games to make a public statement.
P.S. If anyone wants to read for themselves how totalitarian regimes really behave, and what the reality is like for those poor souls living under them, read about Pol Pot in Cambodia, North Korea under Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. Read about Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Budapest, Hungary in 1956, Warsaw, Poland in 1945. Read about Stalin's rise to power in the Soviet Union, how he purged the officer corps of his military by having thousands upon thousands (no exxageration) shot, this only being a small example of what played out in the general population. Read about Hitler's thug regime, his seizure of power, and the utter brutality of his proxies' conduct towards civilians in occupied countries. Folks, this stuff goes beyind left/right. This stuff goes to the very heart of civilization.
One of the common themes when you read about such things is how the helpless people who suffer cry out "Somebody pay attention! Look at what's happening to us? Is nobody going to help us? Is nobody going to do anything? Is nobody going to say anything? Is nobody going to remember what happened here?"
Well, I for one will, as occasion arises, be a voice to remind people. The aphorism is true. Those who fail to remember history are often doomed to repeat it. Comparing the excesses of civililzed regimes to the purposeful brutality of thug regimes and being content to consider them morally equivalent only enables thug regimes and makes one susceptible to their propaganda.
This post has been edited by DaddyO: 14 April 2012 - 08:41 AM